17th-century bed hangings installed in Old House

The best seat in the house, specifically the Old House in Cutchogue, has always been the bed.

As part of the reinterpretation project at the Old House, the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council had a historically accurate 17th-century bed installed there, which will be on public view for the next two weekends, until the Old House closes for the season.

A bed may not seem very important to modern people, but in the 17th century, it was one of the most important fixtures in the house. The bed was often the focal point in the room where hosts entertained — and they often entertained on the bed itself. The fabric hanging all around the bed was not for privacy, but for providing heat at a time when there was no central heating.

“Chairs were expensive; you don’t need a lot of those,” said Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers, which was commissioned to recreate the historic bed furniture. “But you sure do need a bed and it becomes where you show off your house. We might think that’s really weird, but the sense of privacy that we have is so blown away back then.”

Ms. Goody and her assistant, Lisa Trahan, traveled from Cherry Hill, N.Y., to install the bed, which took an entire day to put together.

“When you want to rehab a house today, and you want to show off your status, we show off status by our vehicles, our kitchen and our bathrooms,” Ms. Goody said. “In the 17th century, your bed hangings are valued higher than almost anything else in your house.”

All the blankets and hangings were woven by Ms. Goody and her colleagues. They have experience in historic weaving and assembly.

“It doesn’t matter to me if it’s 1640 or 1690, we wanted the bed hangings to mimic the time period it most felt like,” Ms. Goody said. “It’s really cool. We chose fabrics that we could document to the 17th century from weavers’ draft books.”

The property is undergoing a three-year reinterpretation meant to make its furnishings and tours more accurate. The house was originally furnished in 1940, but it was filled with donated items that were never properly vetted.

John Fiske is the subject specialist helping to correctly place items accurate to the time period in the house. He has much experience handling items from the 17th-century and is the author of “When Oak was New: Furniture & Daily Life, 1530-1700.”

The Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council also hired a dendrochronologist to properly date the Old House, which revealed that the structure was not built in 1649, but in 1698.

“This is going to be the most spectacular bed of its kind east of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Zachary Studenroth, director of the historical council. “There is no other interpretation of a 17th-century bed on Long Island.”

Mr. Fiske will present his findings about the Old House at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12. The site will be open to visitors beforehand.

[email protected]